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Rapid City, South Dakota
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Rapid City, South Dakota

Welcome to South Dakota

You won’t find yourself getting distracted by big-city lights in rustic South Dakota, where echoes of the Old West and its rugged frontier still whisper their way across the state’s prairie plains and through its cutthroat southwestern badlands.

Here, you’ll find yourself walking in the footsteps of frontier figures like Lewis and Clark, Wild Bill Hickok, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, to name just a few. You’ll find yourself exploring glacial lakes in the state’s northeast corner, paddling current of the Missouri River in central South Dakota and soaking in the canyon-laden landscapes of southwestern South Dakota.

As far as must-see attractions go, no sightseeing itinerary in South Dakota is complete without a stop at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where you’ll see the 60-foot-tall faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt chiseled into the granite mountainside.

Other popular sites and family-friendly attractions include the work-in-progress Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills region, the historic gunslinger’s town of Deadwood in western South Dakota and Bear Country USA wildlife park in Rapid City.


Mitchell Corn Palace


As part of the Great Plains, a region that stretches north-south all the way from North Dakota to Oklahoma, South Dakota is mostly blanketed by sprawling tracts of grassland, ranchland and farmland. But the Mount Rushmore State has more than a few geological tricks up its sleeve.

Head to the eastern third of the state and you’ll find ancient glacial lakes, idyllic river valleys and lush forests that are perfect for afternoons or weekends full of fishing, hiking and camping. In central South Dakota, you’ll find more than 3,000 miles of shoreline and 400 miles of waterways along the mighty Missouri River.

And if you head to the southwest corner of the state, you’ll hit the geographic jackpot. Twice. Home to the awe-inspiring Black Hills and the jaw-dropping Badlands, southwestern South Dakota is where you’ll find must-visit highlights like Black Hills National Forest, Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs and Jewel Cave National Monument.

If nothing else, be sure to take a swing through the South Dakota Badlands, home to some of the most surreal geography in the country. Of particular note is the Badlands Wall section of the park, where you’ll find a concentration of exposed and jagged rock spires that form an impenetrable ridge 60 miles long.


If you’re visiting during the summer months, you’ll find no shortage of activities and festivals to add to your itinerary. June through September is packed with marquee events celebrating the best the Mount Rushmore State has to offer.

Things kick off in style with Wild Bill Days in the historic town of Deadwood. The festival celebrates the life of Wild Bill Hickok, the famous gunslinger, formidable card-player and onetime Deadwood town sheriff (until he was shot down during a game of poker). In nearby Sturgis, the sounds American iron fill the air in August for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

If you’re in southwestern South Dakota around July 4, attend the Mount Rushmore Independence Day Celebration. The event often features fireworks and a quartet of professional actors in period dress, portraying Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.

Over in Mitchell, the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo is a popular, family-friendly event. Highlights include rodeo competitions, a parade and a chili cook-off. In Custer, Gold Discovery Days is a must for families. There’s a hot air balloon rally, car show, horse rodeo and a parade.

Noteworthy destinations for history buffs include the Ingalls Homestead, home of the family that inspired “Little House on the Prairie.”